If you could bottle summer in a pasta sauce, this would be it. All the “best hits” from the vegetable garden come together under one proverbial roof: corn, summer squash, tomatoes and basil. In fact, because it relies completely on the quality of the ingredients, it’s a one-season dish. Try making it in November and it will surely disappoint.
This pasta is especially appealing for summer cooking since it fills the bill for a “15 Minute Fix”: a meal that can be pulled together start to finish in a quarter of an hour. No need to be behind the stove for long on a steamy day. Once the pasta water boils, the clock starts ticking.
This dish has been in my repetoire for years, evolving from an uncooked tomato/basil/garlic sauce that was a summertime staple. When I was pregnant, though, I couldn’t tolerate the raw garlic, so I started sautéing it before adding the tomatoes. Then corn came into the mix, followed by zucchini. It’s that sort of sauce: one that bears tinkering with depending on what you have in your fridge. Sometimes I toss in fresh mint along with the basil, use crumbled feta in lieu of Parmesan, finish with lemon zest, top with grilled shrimp, or scatter on a small handful of toasted pinenuts.
As far as nutrition goes, I make this like I do most pastas, with a high ratio of vegetables to noodles. I figure two to three ounces of pasta per serving, with all of the nourishing “goodies” making up the balance of the dish. Multi-grain or whole grain pasta will work here, or for the “no-gluten” crowd, whatever wheat-free favorites that suit you. Regardless of the variety, be sure to cook the pasta al dente, both for texture and because less cooking time lowers the glycemic index. That means it digests more slowly and will keep your crowd satisfied longer. And although I prefer a long noodle for this, feel free to substitute penne or any small sturdy shape. Those tend to go over well with the little ones.
I made “Summer in a Bowl” a few nights ago for the kids and my friend Alyssa (who took the pretty pictures you see here). We had it with salad greens pulled from my garden and a couple of glasses of bubbly while a strawberry rhubarb pie cooled on the counter. Even though we were home, it felt like vacation. It felt like summer. Even my kids thought so.
“Summer in a Bowl” Pasta
• 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
• 2 large cloves garlic, minced
• 2 ears of corn, shucked, kernals cut off the cobb
• 2 medium zucchini, 1/3-inch dice
• 2 medium ripe tomatoes, chopped
• 3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh basil
• ¼ fresh lemon
• Parmesan cheese
• 12 ounces linguine, fettuccini or spaghetti
Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. When the water is boiling, add the pasta and cook until al dente.
While the pasta is cooking, heat the olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add the garlic and sauté for a minute or so, being sure not to burn it. Add the corn and zucchini and sauté for a couple of minutes until the squash is just cooked, but still a little al dente. Remove the pan from heat and add the tomatoes and basil and stir well. Squeeze the lemon over the pasta and season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
When the pasta is done, drain it in a colander and add it to the vegetables. Grate two tablespoons of Parmesan cheese over the pasta, stir again. Taste and add more salt if needed.
Serve immediately along with the Parmesan cheese and a grater to pass at the table.
Serves 4 to 5